Crystal sponges to clean up waste

New sponge-like crystals that clean up contaminants in industrial waste and soil can now be made rapidly and for 30 per cent of the cost.

The Challenge

Industrial pollution threatening our environment

Contaminants in industrial waste and soil can create problems for the surrounding environment. As the world's demands on industry increase so to does this impact.

We've been researching how to use sponge-like crystals called Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs) to capture carbon dioxide and remove other harmful contaminants from the environment.

However, up until now the length of time it takes to produce MOFs has been a barrier to their manufacture.

Our Response

Using crystals to capture harmful pollutants

Thanks to a new method we've developed, these sponge-like crystals that clean up contaminants in industrial waste and soil can now be made rapidly and for 30 per cent of the cost.

Developed in collaboration with The University of Padova (Italy) and The University of Adelaide, the method makes the crystals viable to manufacture by reducing the production time from up to two days down to as few as 15 minutes.

Close up of the metal organic framework crystals

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The crystals are made of extremely porous metal organic frameworks and have an internal storage capacity of 7,000 square metres, which is equal to the size of a football oval in a single gram. This means that the crystals can filter huge volumes of industrial wastewater, trapping large amounts of contaminants including carcinogenic material and heavy metals.

The Results

A new cost effective method for chemical manufacturers

Producing MOF crystals has traditionally been an energy-intensive process due to the heating and cooling required, but this new method is performed at room temperature for dramatic energy savings.

It's expected to cut the cost to make MOFs by thousands of dollars for Australian manufacturers.

We're currently seeking partnerships with Australian chemical manufacturers to further develop this technology and turn it into a sustainable industrial waste management product.

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